This Week In History: The Supremes, Simon & Garfunkel And The King Of Pop
The music history books are vast and full of interesting bits of knowledge. “Big” Jay Sorensen gives you a recap of the biggest and most interesting music news from the week; something from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
The gentleman who wrote the lyrics of hits from the Supremes, Eddie Holland, claims this week’s chart-topping single in America with his preferred song by the trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Many people believe most of the music released on the Motown family of labels was recorded in Detroit. Originally, it was.
Beginning as early as 1963, many tunes the corporation recorded were being done in Los Angeles studios, with Southern California musicians, although their Detroit studios were still used. Many of the original “Funk Brothers” remained behind in the Motor City when Berry Gordy, Jr. recognized the music business was becoming centered in the City of Angels. The relationship that held the success of the Supremes together through 1967 was the writing and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. They would leave their perch later that year to strike out on their own after a dispute over royalties with Gordy.
This single release was the ninth pop number one hit for the Supremes and would be the next to last number one to incorporate Ballard. Her successor Cindy Birdsong was already being groomed to take her position, as Flo wasn’t happy being pushed to the side in the act that was obviously mostly about the lead singer, Diana. “Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone” was number one for just a lone week on Motown Records. The flip-side of the 45 was a song called “There’s No Stopping Us Now” which got airplay in quite a few cities, but didn’t chart on its own.
Both the album and single entitled “Bridge Over Troubled Water” sat in the number one positions this week in America. This was the opening week on top of the album chart of an eventual run of 10 uninterrupted weeks, and the second of six weeks as the biggest hit single; both on Columbia Records.
Paul Simon was going to croon the song, but realized Art Garfunkel‘s voice was the right choice. Garfunkel also appealed with Simon to add another verse to the song as well as the loudening of the instrumentation toward the end of the track. Both artists shared co-producing credits with Roy Halee, an ex-audio engineer for CBS Television, who moved to Columbia Records as a music editor and then a studio engineer. It was Halee who determined that he should record their voices jointly on one microphone, and then over-dub their voices to make them sound fuller.
Because Simon desired to have a gospel feel to the recording, he employed the talents of multi-instumentalist Larry Knechtel on the much practiced piano parts of the song. Other singles from the LP included the earlier released single, “The Boxer,” and later “Cecilia” and “El Condor Pasa.” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” both the single and LP, earned numerous GRAMMY Awards.
Much to the disappointment of their fans, the duo broke up after this, their fifth studio album in 1970, only to come together for several concerts and occasional recordings. By far, Simon has had the more triumphant solo recording career.
The second single from the enormous LP Thriller from Michael Jackson was “Billie Jean.” This was the first of an eventual seven weeks at the summit of the pop singles chart.
The album’s producer, Quincy Jones, had a few key disagreements with Jackson about the song. First, Jones didn’t think the track was good enough to even be included on the collection of songs. Jackson won that squabble. Next was the title, as Jones suggested it be called “Not My Lover” so it wouldn’t be confused with tennis great Billie Jean King. Jackson insisted and the title stayed. Finally, Jones thought the opening bass-line was too lengthy. Jackson persuaded him it wasn’t as that was what made him dance. Michael had stated the song was based on groupies the Jackson 5 stumbled upon in their early years, but not based on any woman in particular.
The song has sold an estimated 5.5 million copies internationally with 3.7 million of those sold in the US alone. “Billie Jean” on Epic Records was listed as the sixth biggest hit of the 1980s by Billboard Magazine and might have placed higher had the Thriller album not been one of the best-selling albums ever.
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